So goes the line from many corners of the political and cultural realm: it was the social conservatives that caused Mitt Romney’s loss in our most recent presidential election, as well as lose two Senate seats when the common wisdom was that the Republicans should have taken over the Senate. This line comes not only from Democrats and their allies in the media, but from Republican elites and their allies in their media. I find this comical, as well as annoying, when we consider that Mitt Romney got fewer votes in 2012 than John McCain got in 2008:
And this was with the supposed albatross of Sarah Palin hung around McCain’s neck! And let us not forget that Mitt Romney was the establishment Republican pick from the beginning, the same establishment now bashing him. Nor that this Mitt Romney was a liberal Republican governor from the deeply blue state of Massachusetts, until he needed to become more conservative to win a Republican presidential nomination, nor that so called social issues were completely absent from the Romney campaign.
George Neumayr has a fantastic piece for religious conservatives, and anyone concerned about the truth, that inspired this one. As he points out about the silence on social issues in the Romney campaign:
[N]one of this stops the media from conveniently casting the election results as a repudiation of social conservatism. Romney “shifted” to the center too late, according to this narrative. No, he started on the center and stayed there. As Obama devoted his energies to firing up liberals, Romney searched for independents who didn’t materialize.
A far more plausible explanation for Romney’s loss is that he completely ignored his social conservative base; how else to explain his vote total not eclipsing the pathetic McCain campaign. All the pundits on the right thought that since Romney was polling very well among independents he was a landslide waiting to happen. They thought those polling samples of more Democrats turning out than Republicans had to be wrong; they weren’t, because Obama decided not to be scared of blatantly appealing to his base. At the Democrat convention in Charlotte, abortion almost seemed as if it were a sacrament; at least no more of the old Clinton “safe, legal and rare.” Ironically, Americans are more pro-life than ever, but that didn’t stop the president from targeting the radical pro-abortion portion of his base. But the Republican establishment is terrified of appearing “extreme” if they defend the life of unborn children, regardless of how they are conceived.
It is very easy for secularists on the right to blame the religious for their electoral woes in the cultural zeitgeist in which we live. One that surprised me came from the normally level headed Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal in his column last week:
Fellow conservatives, please stop obsessing about what other adults might be doing in their bedrooms, so long as it’s lawful and consensual and doesn’t impinge in some obvious way on you. This obsession is socially uncouth, politically counterproductive and, too often, unwittingly revealing.
Also, if gay people wish to lead conventionally bourgeois lives by getting married, that may be lunacy on their part but it’s a credit to our values. Channeling passions that cannot be repressed toward socially productive ends is the genius of the American way. The alternative is the tapped foot and the wide stance.
Also, please tone down the abortion extremism. Supporting so-called partial-birth abortions, as too many liberals do, is abortion extremism. But so is opposing abortion in cases of rape and incest, to say nothing of the life of the mother. Democrats did better with a president who wanted abortion to be “safe, legal and rare”; Republicans would have done better by adopting outgoing Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’s call for a “truce” on social issues.
Now, I like straw men as much as the next polemicist (though maybe not as much as our current president), but they are not real helpful in getting to the truth. I would just love to have Mr. Stephens give me a concrete example of conservatives who are “obsessing about what other adults might be doing in their bedrooms.” Just one. I’m fairly well read on the news of the day, but I can’t think of any conservative be they religious or not who has such an obsession. And please don’t find me a Youtube video of some fundamentalist Southern Baptist holy roller preaching to his flock. But I’m serious, if you are reading this and you’re a secular sort of person who distrusts religion and the religious as intolerant and judgmental, please give me an example. Mr. Stephens makes it sound like this so called obsession is just shy of ubiquitous in conservative circles. I’d love for him to prove it. Straw men arguments don’t often lend themselves to the inconvenience of “proof”.
And please, Mr. Stephens, point me to “abortion extremism”. No conservative politician in America believes that in the current political and cultural moment any law could be passed that would outlaw abortion in cases of rape and incest. But am I to be labeled an “extremist” because I believe children so conceived do not deserve to die? There are two infamous instances where such ostensible “extremism” was supposedly on display: Republican Senate candidates who inartfully (read politically incorrect) answered questions about abortion. And tell me why such questions about abortion and rape are salient in today’s political climate? Of course they are not at all, except for one important point: they are used in an attempt by a hostile media to brand social conservatives as “extreme” and to trip up unsuspecting candidates so they, and the Republican Party, can be tarred in the same way.
It was really pathetic to see Republican elites, both politicians and media types, jump on the “extremist” bandwagon to discredit these candidates. Democrats never eat their own; Republicans always do, lest they be seen by our media elites as intolerant and God forbid, religious. Better to declare a “truce” on social issues, as Indiana governor Mitch Daniels did, and all just become Democrats!
In fact “extremism” on the right is a cultural template, pure and simple, and unfortunately a powerful one. Those who work in professions with profoundly powerful cultural influence, like media, entertainment and education, believe extremism is solely the province of people on the right, but especially so those on the right who are religious. In all the products they produce, from movies and television shows, to textbooks, magazines, newspapers and books, they consistently affirm this template; it permeates everything these professions produce. There can be no such thing as extremism on the left in this template. It’s sad to see Mr. Stephens swallow this hook, line and sinker.
Since he mentioned the re-definition of marriage, I’ll use homosexuality as an example, at the risk of being labeled a homophobe, bigot and hater. The latest template in this regard is that Americans are coming to embrace homosexuals and homosexuality as just something normal and matter of fact, as if this cultural shift happened in a vacuum. In fact, this is the cultural template that has been pushed by our cultural elites for at least two decades, and probably more. One example is the CBS show “Person of Interest.” The latest episode has a lesbian “married” couple, and this is portrayed as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Is it? At least half of the American voting public doesn’t believe so, but who cares. Hollywood tells us it is, over, and over and over, so it must be!
Think about the last time you saw a negative portrayal of homosexuality in popular culture. Me either. In fact, John Nolte at Big Hollywood coined a phrase that captures the quintessence of our cultural elites’ attitude about homosexuality: “the awesomeness that is gayness.” It couldn’t be put any better. In a review of the movie “Easy A”, he says:
Just as predictably, there’s a one-dimensionally dull gay best friend, and he is just so damned wonderful and kind and decent and awesome you really start to kinda wish you were gay. Even worse are Olive’s parents. Though portrayed by two very good actors (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson), they never rise above glib and cutesy, and naturally they’re always wonderfully supportive of “their daughter’s choices,” even if it might mean a trip to the Free Clinic. Eventually both will confess to their own slutty backgrounds (including much experimentation in the awesomeness that is gayness).
On the other hand, there is the template that religious people, especially Christians, are intolerant and judgmental, and that the traditional nuclear family is a seedbed of dysfunction. Can we find any examples in popular culture of these templates? Only everywhere. This isn’t to say that there are not positive portrayals of these things, and we try to point those out here when we find them, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Am I saying we should have negative portrayals of homosexuality in popular culture? Or that all portrayals of Christians and the traditional family should be all sweetness and light? Of course not. But how about a bit of reality thrown in with all the Hollywood ideology painted as entertainment. Unfortunately that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. As long as the cultural professions I’ve mentioned here, including Hollywood, are dominated by secularist modern liberals, we will get their worldview reflected in all they do, and Americans will confuse this template for reality. Unfortunately, too many in the Republican establishment do too.